DPM Heng Swee Keat steps aside as leader of 4G team: Who will be Singapore's next PM?
SINGAPORE – With Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announcing on Thursday (April 8) that he will step aside from the helm of the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) fourth-generation leadership, four men have emerged as likely candidates to fill his shoes.
They are Mr Chan Chun Sing, Mr Ong Ye Kung, Mr Lawrence Wong and Mr Desmond Lee – with one of them possibly succeeding Mr Lee Hsien Loong as Singapore’s prime minister.
All four are full ministers in PM Lee’s Cabinet, and were present at Thursday’s press conference on DPM Heng’s decision. They are also key members of the PAP’s 4G core and its central executive committee.
Mr Wong and Mr Desmond Lee were newly elected to the ruling party’s top decision-making body in November last year.
Within the party, Mr Chan, 51, ranks highest among the four as second assistant secretary-general. He was appointed deputy to Mr Heng, who is first assistant secretary-general, in 2018.
Currently Minister for Trade and Industry and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, Mr Chan first joined politics in 2011 after 24 years in the Singapore Armed Forces, where he rose to become chief of army.
He was elected MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC and appointed acting minister for community development, youth and sports; and minister of state for information, communications and the arts.
Mr Chan was then promoted to full minister in 2013, with the social and family development portfolio. He was also second minister for defence then.
Mr Chan has been deputy chairman of the People’s Association since 2015.
Mr Ong, also 51, was to have joined the Government in 2011 – the same year as Mr Chan – but he was part of the PAP team in Aljunied that lost to the Workers’ Party at the 2011 General Election.
The current Minister for Transport successfully ran for election in Sembawang GRC in 2015, and was appointed acting minister for education (higher education and skills). He was promoted to full minister the next year and made Second Defence Minister.
Mr Ong is concurrently a board member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Prior to politics, he worked at Keppel Corporation and the National Trades Union Congress, and was chief executive of the Workforce Development Agency. Mr Ong was also principal private secretary to PM Lee from 2003 to 2005, and his press secretary before that.
Mr Wong, 48, is also a former principal private secretary to PM Lee. He then headed the Energy Market Authority before entering politics in 2011.
Now Minister for Education and Second Minister for Finance, he was made full minister in 2014 and has held positions in the defence; communications and information; national development; and culture, community and youth portfolios.
Mr Wong has been in the spotlight due to his role in the Government’s pandemic response. He is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19.
He chairs the PAP Community Foundation and Singapore Labour Foundation, and sits on the boards of several organisations, including GIC and the Future Economy Council.
The youngest of the four is Mr Desmond Lee, 44, who is Minister for National Development and Minister-in-Charge of Social Services Integration.
He was elected MP for Jurong GRC in 2011, and in 2017 was appointed minister in the prime minister’s office, minister for social and family development, and second minister for national development.
He moved to West Coast GRC for the 2020 general election.
Mr Lee co-chairs the Singapore Together movement that encourages people to partner the Government, as well as the Emerging Stronger Taskforce charting the Republic’s post-pandemic economic recovery.
Before politics, Mr Lee, who is the son of former Cabinet minister Lee Yock Suan, served as a deputy public prosecutor and state counsel in the criminal justice division of the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
He also previously headed the Ministry of Health’s legal department and was Temasek’s in-house counsel.
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